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Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs to become premier’s chief of staff

ROB SHAW, Postmedia Network

Councillor Geoff Meggs checks out the water at English Bay after an oil spill in Vancouver on April 8, 2015.

Councillor Geoff Meggs checks out the water at English Bay after an oil spill in Vancouver on April 8, 2015.

VICTORIA — City of Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs has become NDP premier-designate John Horgan’s chief of staff, the NDP announced Tuesday.

Meggs resigned his seat on city council to assume the new job. He had previously served as premier Glen Clark’s director of communications during the 1990s NDP government, was a founding member of Vision Vancouver, and worked as the executive director of the B.C. Federation of Labour . Most recently, he co-chaired the NDP election platform development committee.

“He brings the experience of having worked recently on the platform for this campaign and is intimately involved with the specifics of what we’ll be implementing over the next four years,” said NDP MLA Carole James.

Meggs has local government experience on critical files like building more affordable housing stock and working closely with municipalities, said James.

The NDP also announced former B.C. Institute of Technology president Don Wright will serve as deputy minister to Horgan and head of the public service. That is the top bureaucratic position in government, and acts as the middle person between the non-partisan civil service and the hyper-partisan premier’s office.

Wright was previously tapped for the same job by Adrian Dix during the 2013 campaign, which the NDP lost. Most recently he was CEO of Central 1 Credit Union, and will resign effective July 7.

“While I certainly didn’t intend or expect to leave Central 1 so soon, the B.C. government has asked me to take on a role that requires immediate attention,” Wright said in a statement.

Kim Henderson, who is current deputy minister to Premier Christy Clark, will remain head of the public service until the new NDP government is sworn in, likely in two to three weeks, at which point she will be replaced by Wright.

“Don has shown leadership and innovation in a number of high-profile organizations, and we believe his ability to build relationships and his approach to challenging situations will provide great benefit in dealing with key issues we’ll need to address,” said Horgan in a statement.

“We realize that we’re calling Don away from his current commitments, however this is a critical role and having him in place as we get to work on the issues that matter to people is important.”

Wright also previously served as deputy minister of finance, forests, trade and investment, and education in the Saskatchewan and British Columbia governments.

“People just have huge respect from all political sides for the work that Don Wright has done,” said James. “And I think that really brings a real strength to the deputy to the premier position.”

Bob Dewar, who most recently was Horgan’s chief of staff and also the NDP’s election campaign director, will serve as a “Special Advisor to the Premier.”

James said Dewar, who is from Manitoba, “is staying put, for now” in British Columbia and will focus on strategic files.

The three men are experienced and a good fit for the busy time ahead and the ambitious agenda the NDP hopes to launch, said James.

No salaries for the positions were immediately released.

Horgan said Friday he is moving quickly to transition into power, review the government briefing books, and begin enacting his agenda before the September return of the legislature.

“I’ve been really impressed... by the number of people who’ve come forward and expressed interest in doing the work,” James said of recruitment of staff. “I think it provides people with an exciting chance to do something in government that is a part of history.”